New study shows social media hasn’t helped emotional well-being during pandemic

Royette Dubar, Nicole Watkins and Grant Hill are the co-authors of a new study titled “Examining the Direction of Effects Between COVID-19 Experiences, General Well-Being, Social Media Engagement, and Symptoms of insomnia in university students ”.

A recent Wesleyan study showed that seeking emotional support on social media during COVID-19 did not improve the emotional well-being of emerging adult students.

The study, led by Royette Dubar, assistant professor of psychology; Nicole Watkins, postdoctoral fellow in psychology; and Major in Psychology Grant Hill ’20, MA ’21 asked over 600 emerging college adults (18-29) across the United States to complete two online surveys over a five-month period at the height of the COVID -19 pandemic.

“COVID has had important implications for the way we interact with others and the way we think about our well-being. What we are trying to understand is whether certain aspects of our individual personalities may have been influenced by the COVID experience; and also, whether specific personal characteristics may have influenced how we respond to the pandemic, ”Dubar said.

“One of the most important findings was that having a lower sense of general well-being at the onset of the pandemic predicted several negative outcomes, including an increase in symptoms of insomnia over time. Unfortunately, many emerging adults don’t seek help when struggling with mental health issues, such as depression, ”Watkins said.

Dubar and his team attempted to measure well-being across a variety of factors, including participants’ anxiety symptoms, sense of self-control, overall health, and self-reported symptoms of depression. To measure sleep, the team asked about duration and quality, which was an important part of the analysis.

The lower your sense of well-being, the more likely you were to take to social media extensively for emotional relief, which unfortunately had no effect on you to feel better over time, according to the results of the investigation. They also found that people who got better sleep initially continued this trend throughout the study and, interestingly, reported fewer negative consequences from COVID-19. Those who had poor quality sleep earlier in the pandemic continued to have more sleep problems over time.

“In our study, negative COVID experiences included the perceived loss of opportunities to socialize with friends, missed work and travel opportunities, and whether or not their friends or family had been infected or had been exposed to COVID. ; so we captured a wide range of negative experiences, ”Dubar said.

Dubar and Watkins also researched how and why people were using social media during this difficult time. Were they looking to make practical connections, arrange meetings with friends, or check in with loved ones? Or were they using social media to regulate their emotions?

“We were also trying to find out if people were using social media in a problematic way,” Dubar said. “Researchers realize that simply asking people to report their time on social media is not a strong indicator of the role social media play in our lives, as it has become so prevalent. in all age groups, ”she said. Instead, it’s more important to try to understand what motivates people to search social media and what kinds of activities they engage in on social media.

Study participants who felt a greater sense of well-being were less likely to search social media for emotional reasons. “And, if you were motivated to search social media for emotional reasons, we found that it didn’t actually predict changes in your well-being,” Dubar said.

Typically, people who used social media as a coping mechanism did not derive any emotional benefit from it. For many emerging adults, social media is presented as a solution to isolation. Dubar advocates seeing social media as just another tool – there is nothing magical about it that will improve anyone’s lifestyle. And if you suffer from mental health issues, it doesn’t seem to bring relief.

“I think it’s important to think of social media not only in terms of the time spent, but also in terms of interacting with them. Are you actually connected with people who can provide you with the kind of deep and meaningful emotional support you need? Dubar said.

For more information on Dubar’s study, visit

To follow Dubar on Twitter, visit @SpaLabWesleyan. To follow Watkins, visit @DocNicWat.

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